Sentinel Grove Cottage | The City adopts the 2022-23 budget

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Cottage Grove City Council voted unanimously Monday, June 27, to pass the city’s 2022-23 budget of $46.1 million.

The budget also imposes taxes at the rate of $7.2087 per $1,000 for the fiscal year.

The new fiscal year begins July 1, 2022 and the City is required to adopt a budget for the fiscal year no later than June 30.

Last year’s budget (2021-22) passed at $40.3 million.

Some changes to the approved budget were proposed this month by city staff and the public. Changes recommended by staff included changes to several funds.

In the general fund, the police operations budget was increased by $2,600 to acquire access to an online pledge search tool. The recent increase in market fuel prices has also resulted in a $32,000 increase in the fuel and lubricants expense line.

For the same reason, fuel expenses increased by $800 in the Development Department.

Elsewhere in the budget, increases in fuel expenditures were also observed in: the Building Inspection Fund of $1,500; the Street Fund street maintenance service of $15,500; the $15,000 street sweeping service; water distribution service from the Water Fund of $15,500; Wastewater Fund sewage collection service $7,600 and Middlefield Golf Course service $7,800.

It is proposed to offset these increases through a reduction in the Department of Internal Support contingency budget line.

Overall, it was proposed to increase the combined fuel and lubricants expenses by $95,700. These increases were derived by using the amount of fuel used in the current year and estimating how much the cost of fuel could increase in the coming year. As this is an estimate, staff expressed hope that the estimate is high and that the expenditure will not be fully realized.

The Youth Peer Court Service also saw an increase in the amount of $4,800 which will allow for assessment services of youth who receive citations for offenses such as misconduct, criminal mischief, harassment and vandalism.

In the trust fund, a new line item was created for donations to the skate park in the amount of $5,000 as well as a correlating expense item for the skate park in the amount of $5,000.

This will raise funds to pursue a plan to improve the Cottage Grove skate park, a project that has recently attracted public interest. The $5,000 is considered a placeholder; if more funds are received, further action by the council may be taken to appropriate the funds at that time.

In addition, the Budget Committee reduced funding for the operation/support of a homeless facility by $200,000 in the Community Services Department of the General Fund, as it determined that there was a need examine the matter further. This amount has been allocated to the item for contingencies.

During its meeting on Monday, the city council also examined requests for funding from the public.

South Valley Farmers Market requested funding of $5,000, which would allow their program to provide benefits to low-income members of the community by increasing their staff budget to allow for program enhancements.

South Valley Farmers Market was established in 2016 and operates a public market space where local growers and producers can distribute local foods and artisan products to the community.

A request was also made for support for the Community Health Center, an upcoming project managed by Lane County Public Health. Jim Gilroy, representing Be Your Best, had requested funding in the amount of $100,000. This amount was included in the initial budget proposal, but was reduced by the Budget Committee and placed under contingencies.

The stated mission of Lane County Community Health Centers is to improve the health and well-being of the community through affordable holistic health care. The Cottage Grove project aims to integrate these health services into the local Lane Community College building on River Road.

Additionally, following a budget hearing, the city received a request for additional funding of $1,868 from the Singing Creek Education Center to fund the week-long operation of its two-week Pueblos summer camp. .

The nonprofit develops historically-inspired educational programs and its summer camp is made available free of charge to Guatemalan and Latino families in Cottage Grove who otherwise could not afford to send their children at the camp.

During public comments on the budget on Monday, Singing Creek Education Center President Steve Williamson spoke about the center’s camp, which will include Spanish-speaking and Mam teachers.

“We did it last year. It was very popular, but we could only do it for a week,” he said. The funding request would allow the camp to operate for the proposed two weeks.

Board discussion

Council’s discussion of the budget largely focused on funding requests from the public.

Councilor Mike Fleck started the discussion by declaring a conflict of interest as Executive Director of Community Sharing regarding the promotions section of the budget, and said he would recuse himself from any discussion in this regard.

Fleck went on to say he wasn’t sure about the South Valley Farmers’ Market demand.

“Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about how this program will work to benefit people in our community. It seems like a huge amount of money,” he said, adding that he was “not necessarily opposed.”

However, he was supportive of the Singing Creek summer camp and the community health center, on the latter point speaking to the need for health care in the community.

Councilor Candace Solesbee said she had concerns about the community health center “not because I don’t believe we need health care,” she said, but rather given the shortage of workers and the tendency of physicians to move to other communities.

“There is currently a mass exodus from our hospitals,” she said, pointing to massive wait times for appointments as a symptom of the problem. “I know we let a lot of our nurses, doctors and administrators go because the vaccine requires it. We brought in a lot of traveling nurses at a very high cost and now unfortunately the hospitals, from what I hear, can’t afford it any longer.

As for Cottage Grove’s own Community Health Center, Solesbee said she was “afraid to open another clinic and not be able to staff it.”

Also, given the overall increase in costs, she worried if the city could afford $100,000 for such a project.

Councilor Kenneth Roberts said he understands the community health center will go ahead whether the city supports it or not, and that he’d rather see that $100,000 go to other things. “.

Regarding the farmers’ market demand, Roberts supported market work, but agreed with Councilor Fleck’s assessment that $5,000 seemed high and said he would support a reduced amount.

Councilor Chalice Savage expressed support for the establishment of a community health center in Cottage Grove due to the health care needs of the area.

“I would like to see a community health center open so people don’t have to travel. I would love to see more opportunities,” she said.

Councilor Jon Stinnett declared a potential conflict of interest due to his role as executive director of Downtown Cottage Grove and a budget position supporting a Main Street program.

Stinnett said he thought allocating $100,000 to the community health center seemed “pretty simple and obvious” and later backed the demands of the South Valley Farmers Market and the Singing Creek Education Center.

Councilman Greg Ervin said he supports funding for the Singing Creek Camp as well as the South Valley Farmers Market, but “as far as the Community Health Center…. There’s more information I wish I had before I can back it up.

He said there were issues around the center that concerned him and, although he did not elaborate, he added that “there is a lane in my mind to support him”. So, he said, he was comfortable keeping it as an emergency item and mentioning it at a later date.

Councilor Fleck said his view on the Community Health Center was that “support is more important than the amount” and offered a compromise of either reducing the amount or addressing the issue later.

Councilors ultimately voted to keep the community health center for emergencies while adding $3,000 for the farmers’ market and $1,870 for Singing Creek to the 2022-23 budget.

Funding for the community health center is expected to be discussed at the next council meeting, scheduled for July 11 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

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